Increasingly over the last three years, trainer Michelle Lovell has
stepped up to the plate on one major league racing circuit after another
and answered each challenge with a solid hit.
During the winter of 2009 she brought a very small stable of mostly
average horses to Fair Grounds for the first time and had success,
winning the $60,000 Allen LaCombe Memorial with Kamal Sheena's Gold
Wonder. In the fall of 2010 she tried Keeneland for the first time and
enjoyed another solid debut, and then last fall at Churchill Downs her
horses were competitive once again on the Kentucky circuit.
Now, following the completion of Churchill's spring meeting, she has
brought 14 horses to Arlington while 16 others remain at the Twin Spires
oval under the care of her husband Casey, who she refers to as the
"unsung hero" of her operation.
"This is really a great facility with great racing," said Lovell
while still settling in during her first week in Chicago. "I also
wanted to come here to Arlington because it has such a great reputation
for treating owners so well and my owners are very important to me.
Some of them have been with me for a long time and have remained very
loyal to me.
"As for the city of Chicago, I've only been here to visit before but
it's a great place to visit," Lovell said. "However, I have a sister
who lives here in Chicago and she loves it.
"Almost all of the horses I brought up here are grass horses," Lovell
said. "Three of the four horses that I've run here so far have been in
grass races and one finished third, another finished second and the
other one ran fourth."
Not a bad Arlington beginning for the former jockey who rode under
the name Michelle Hanley before two separate injuries compromised her
riding career. She began her career as a trainer nine years ago in
Texas by saddling seven horses, none of whom reached the winner's
circle. However, in 2004 she won 19 races – including one stakes – and
what followed were successful meetings at Retama and Lone Star Park.
the lure of more lucrative purses in Louisiana led Lovell to Shreveport
where she culminated her career there with a second-place finish in the
2010 Louisiana Downs trainer standings. Her record at Fair Grounds
over the last four winters has also steadily improved.
One of Lovell's longtime loyal owners is the Agave Racing Stable,
nom-de-course of a San Antonio businessman named Mark Martinez who runs a
company called M2 Technologies.
"Mr. Martinez is very passionate about Thoroughbred racing," Lovell
said. "In fact, M2 Technology is the title sponsor of Retama's $100,000
La Senorita Stakes, so obviously that kind of owner is very good for
Martinez, who will travel to Chicago to watch his gelding Southern
Anthem take on some very stiff competition in Saturday's Grade III
Arlington Handicap, once referred to his trainer as "the best kept
secret in racing," but with the steady prowess Lovell has shown over the
last couple of years, that secret may not be safe much longer.